A 6th Grade Lesson

  Here’s a repeat from November 23, 2011). 

 On April 2, 2007, I presented a paper to the Chicago Literary Club on 5 lessons that I had learned in life (see post of August 16th for one). A big one occurred in 6th grade.

One afternoon between classes, I saw Tim H in the hall. In a show of 6th grade bravado, I grabbed him and pushed him bodily into the girls’ bathroom. And I held the door closed – chortling – while screams of girls and cries from Tim resounded down the hall. What happened next occurred in a kind of slow motion though I’m sure it took place in a flash. I felt a hand on my shoulder which spun me around. Suddenly a bright light exploded on the side of my face. My teacher, Mrs. S, had slapped me. Hard.Don’t you ever do that again.” Tim escaped. I wobbled back to the classroom. When I got home, my mother was there – arms akimbo. She knew. . . . Instead of hugging me and spitting about the mean teacher, my mother simply commented that she hoped I’d learned my lesson. I had.

I learned a lesson. It was epiphanal. I learned that there were lines that were not to be crossed. In today’s world, Mrs. S would’ve been summarily fired, the school system would have been sued by some money-grubbing plaintiff’s lawyer and there would’ve been nasty articles expressing righteous outrage.

I tend to think our educational system needs options for teaching lessons (even like this one) — without the consequence. After all, who wins? I sure did. . . . .

Bring Back the Draft?

The United States has had “conscription” – mandatory induction into the military for able-bodied men – during six conflicts in our nation’s history: the Revolutionary War; the Civil War; World War I; World War II; the Korean War; and the Vietnam War. Most recently, Ameria had a “draft” from 1940 to 1973. In 1965 when I turned 18, I had to register for the Draft. Since I was in college, I was rated 2-S (“S” as in “student”). Later in my college career, I was rated 1-A (“available”) and after I took a pre-induction physical I was rated 4-F (as in “unFit”). Bad knee. . . . Those who were 1-A were put into a lottery – where the low numbers went first. And were “drafted” into the Army for a 2 year term. And often sent off to Vietnam.

Those who objected to military service on the basis of religious belief might be classed as a “conscientious objector” (rated 1-A-O). That would allow conscription into the Army as a medic (so as not to carry a gun). You may have seen the story of Corporal Desmond Doss in the movie “Hacksaw Ridge.” Doss was a Seventh Day Adventist and because of religious belief he refused to bear arms. Yet as a medic – he was awarded the Medal of Honor for saving the lives of 50 to 100 soldiers during the Battle of Okinawa.

In World War II 16.1 million American men served in the armed forces. 405,000 were killed. That’s about 1,800 Americans killed – every week – in nearly 4 years of war. Consider the magnitude of that statistic. Yet our fathers and grandfathers signed up. And served.

But the “draft” is now ancient history to most folks. Sooo. . . what would happen if America reinstated the draft? I suspect that millennials would go shrieking for a “safe place.” Academics and progressives would scream to the rafters. Many would demonstrate. Riot. Burn businesses and attack police. And America would sink further into the malaise that seems to be turning our nation into a third world country. . . . .

But think if we did reinstate the draft? Instead of the military, we conscript the 18 to 26 crowd to take courses in American history, world history, economics and civil discourse. Hmmmm . . . .


[An appropriate update of June 1, 2019] Donna and I went to a local synagogue to hear James Carroll speak about his book The Cloister. The presentation was on a Saturday following Shabbat services. As we approached the entrance, we were greeted by a heavily-armed security guard – wearing body armor. We looked okay so we entered the temple.  And I donned my kippah. . . .

Mr. Carroll, a former Catholic priest (who remains a devout Catholic), discussed his book — and the love story of Heloise and Abelard.  But then he began discussing the issue of anti-Semitism which has roots going back more than a thousand years.  14 million Jews in the world.  1.8 billion Muslims.  2.18 billion Christians.  And who today gets an uneven distribution of hatred?    Yep. . . . .

I just finished the book Anti-Semitism – Here and Now by Deborah Lipstadt.  Read it.  Please.  Most of us are aware of anti-Semites from alt-Right jerks.  But there is a smoldering anti-Semitism from progressives and those on the left. We see bigotry and hatred of Israel and Jews in American colleges and universities. For the latter, it is pointless to ask why we do not boycott human rights abuses in China, Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Sudan, Zimbabwe. Oh no. It is Israel that is in the cross hairs of the left.  And because many Israelis are Jewish, it is their faith that take the heat. 

In Europe it can be dangerous for a man to wear a kippah in public.  Synagogues are guarded by police.  And Jews feel concerns for safety from the moment they arise in the morning.   Anti-Semitism.  Making a comeback.  But did it ever leave?   

Randy Rosenthal’s Chicago Tribune review comments and quotes Lipstadt’s work “And so if we think ourselves to be liberal, or progressive, or simply decent, ‘we must insist that anti-Semitism be treated with the same seriousness as racism, sexism, homophobia and Islamophobia.'”  I hope you say “Amen.”   

Therefore. . . .

Henry Joel Cadbury (1883-1974) was a Biblical scholar and Quaker historian. He served as a professor of divinity at Harvard. He was Chairman of the American Friends Service Committee. And he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 on behalf of the Religious Society of Friends.

When addressing his fellow Quakers, he would often speak of how there are two kinds of people in the world: “Therefore” people and “However” people. He explained that when faced with life’s problems and difficulties, many folks will say “Therefore” I need to do something. “Therefore” I need to help. These folks would then go on to correct the problem – or seek ways in which to do so. It is the “Therefore” people who continually look for reasons, ways and means to help.

“However” people have a different view. When faced with the same problems or difficulties, their response might be “I see the problem, however there’s nothing I can do about it. . . . .” Cadbury’s conclusion was that the world needs more “Therefore” people. We each have the capacity — to be a “Therefore” person. Each day is an opportunity — to make a difference.

Mother Teresa’s eloquence gives inspiration to “Therefore” people:

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.

Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.

Therefore. . . .

Maybe it’s Just Me

[An update from March 29, 2017] I am diligent about conserving water.  Turning off light switches.  Turning off the car rather than wasting gas – and polluting the environment.  Recycling.  Since 2008, I have promoted my registered trademark – JUST TURN IT OFF® – whenever and wherever I can. To get people to be aware of our fragile environment – and to take steps to protect it.  I’ve frequently posted on the subject of conservation.  If you want to see what rankles me, see April 10, 2016.  

That said, I continue to have questions about climate change.  It’s not a scientific law.  Nor a theory.  Or a hypothesis.  It is a consensus.  Of some people.   It’s interesting that there are scientists and respectable folks with differing views on the subject.  But have you noticed how those who raise questions about climate change are put down?  Vilified?  By some politicians. And the “media.” By those who have drunk the Kool Aid (“Eeek!  He’s asking questions!”)?  Great.  That’s really productive. But why silence those who ask questions about climate change?  Why squelch discussion?    What ever happened to civil discourse? Most folks agree that shutting down carbon emissions and pollution is needed. But how about some constructive discussion on the underlying topic. By all sides.  Since discussion, analysis, diagnosis and then consensus may be more productive. And help solve our world’s environmental problems.

Little Feet

[A valuable summer repeat from November 26, 2017]  When I was about 10 years old, I pestered my father to let me drive the family car.  Sooooo. . . . one Sunday, my dad let me drive home from Church.  Not all the way – but the last mile or so — on a road that was pretty vacant and ran in part along a corn field. I’d sit there peering over the steering wheel – my father with one hand on the wheel, one hand on the ignition and one hand on the gear shift.  From then on, I was the “Chuber” driver (“CHurch UBER“) on Sundays.  

Sometimes, my dad would take me to an empty parking lot and let me drive.  Round and round.  So I “learned” to drive at a pretty early age. When Lauren was about 12, I let her “drive” on occasional Saturday afternoons in our Church parking lot.  

My father had a lot of wisdom to impart to me in my formative years (which – Donna comments – are still in progress).  My dad always told me when driving to keep my “eyes moving.”  Watching.  Left.  Right.  Check the mirrors.  And he always told me to watch for “little feet.”  As I drive along a street, I was told to glance forward — under the cars parked along the street.  Why?  Because you can see if there are little feet — on the other side — below the car.  And you can slow down.  It’s easy to see an adult standing by a car.  But there’s no way to see a child unless you see the “little feet” under the car you are approaching. 

I’m always watching for “little feet.”  Try it next time you’re driving.  Keep an eye out for little feet. . . . .

Sure Enough. . . .

Hours after I posted on “Intellectual Property,” the Biden Administration announced exactly what I wrote about — the hijacking of American patents relating to the Covid vaccine. That’s just great.

Moderna invested 10 years and hundreds of millions of dollars – developing the original mRNA technology. In the last few weeks Moderna turned its first profit. Now the pharmaceutical industry achieves a miracle in the space of one year and what happens? As the Wall Street Journal said: “In one fell swoop [Biden] has destroyed tens of billions of dollars in U.S. intellectual property, set a destructive precedent that will reduce pharmaceutical investment, and surrendered America’s advantage in biotech. . . .”

Angela Merkel has roundly criticized the decision to rip off the patents of pharma companies – “The protection of intellectual property is a source of innovation and must remain so in the future.” Other European governments feel the same way. But not America. . . .

Kimberly Strassel reported that “. . . the precedent of willy-nilly canceling patents will prove cataclysmic for drug innovation and health.” As I said in my earlier post – when a dreaded disease comes knocking on your door, where’s the incentive to help? The pharmaceutical companies will shrug their shoulders and say “why bother. . . .”

I am deeply concerned by this ransacking of intellectual property. And a lot of other things. You should be too.

Intellectual Property

A family member has a dreaded disease. The clock is winding down. Pain. Agony. Prayers. At the bedside. And then [name your drug company] comes up with a cure. A medicine that not only treats but remediates the illness of your family member. They take the medicine. And slowly – with tears of joy – they begin to improve. And they heal.

Let’s say that the miracle medicine costs all of $10.00 to produce. And yet the cost to you – or your insurance company – is $200.00. Fair? Let’s say the drug company invested $257,000,000 on research for this drug. And they have a series of patents on all aspects of the drug. And by charging $200.00 per dosage, they are recouping their investment – and making a modest profit. Fair? In 2019, pharmaceutical companies spent 186 billion dollars on research.

Today – some political groups seek to nullify patents. Regulate profits. Commandeer rights in a company’s investment in research, development – and healing. A few countries already do this.

To me, one of the most important words in the English language is – “incentive” (please see post of May 6, 2018). We have incentive to obey traffic lights. To work. Take the dog out. To go to our doctors. To attend a church or synagogue. Recycle. To contribute to charity. To be kind to others. And to develop healing remedies that will help humanity.

As an intellectual property lawyer (now retired), I have respect for the intellectual property of individuals and businesses. And for investments made by corporate America – to come up with knowledge, ideas, technology and medicines to cure disease. I understand that businesses need to be fair in recouping their investments. Most are. But the inclination to deny reimbursement for expenditures, deny profits for shareholders or nullify patents – is shortsighted.

When your family member has a dreaded disease. The clock is winding down. Pain. Agony. Prayers. At the bedside. And [the drug company of your choice] decides it is no longer worth it to invest in research – just remember. That when you stifle incentive, lots of things disappear . . . . .

There is this Girl. . . .

[A repeat from July 10, 2016] There is this girl. Her name is Lisa.  She is captivating and I’ve admired her for a long time. Donna is vaguely aware of my interest in Lisa but she let’s it go.  I have gone on websites to read about Lisa.  And there was one occasion some years ago when our paths actually crossed.  It was in Paris.  There she was.  And I stood. Watching her.  For quite a while.  From about thirty feet away.  Lisa’s last name is Gherardini.

I guess I’m not the only guy in the world who has had a special interest in Lisa.  You see Lisa Gherardini is — the Mona Lisa.  

Lisa – the young wife of Francesco del Gioconda – was painted by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) between 1503 and 1506.  However Leonardo – who claimed he “never completed a single work” – continued to refine Lisa after he moved to France.  He may have applied the final touches of paint in 1516 or 1517.

After Leonardo’s death, the painting was purchased by Francis I of France.  Louis XIV moved Lisa to the Palace of Versailles – and after the Revolution, Lisa was placed in the Louvre.  In 1911, Lisa was stolen by a Louvre employee – Vincenzo Peruggia – who felt that Lisa should be returned to Italy.  Peruggia’s theft was discovered two years later when he tried to sell Lisa to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.  There have been several attempts to deface Lisa – but she continues smiling seductively – behind layers of bulletproof glass.

The aesthetics of da Vinci’s painting are nuanced.  Lisa is sitting upright with hands folded in a reserved attitude.  There is an imaginary landscape behind Lisa which introduces for the first time an “aerial perspective.”  Lisa is considered the most famous painting in the world.  And the most valuable – with an estimated worth of $782,000,000.   I can’t wait to cross paths with Lisa again. . . . .